The World Health Organization is an arm of the United Nations, the international body which among its members includes the International Olympic Committee as a permanent observer to the General Assembly. Whether the IOC should have that status is an entirely different subject for a different day as the IOC is not a country or territory.
Be that as it may, the World Health Organization has sent out conflicting messages about the zika virus which seems to have its epicenter in Brazil. On one hand, the World Health Organization sees absolutely no reason why athletes, particularly those of child bearing age, should miss the Olympics in Rio. But on the other hand, the World Health Organization has recently urged women in zika virus-infected areas, particularly in Latin American countries to delay pregnancy or if possible avoid countries like Brazil. So which is it? Is Brazil safe for both men and women of child bearing ages or is it not safe? Zika is spread by mosquitoes and the virus could cause birth defects.
So far, one high profile American who is pregnant and not an athlete, Comcast TV personality Savannah Guthrie has bailed out of going to Brazil being part of NBC’s morning show coverage. However, behind the scenes, the United States Olympic Committee is twisting arms in an effort to make sure American athletes attend the Games.
The zika virus and health threat was not taken very lightly by Major League Baseball which canceled a planned two game series in San Juan, Puerto Rico between Pittsburgh and Miami on May 30 and 31. Zika is not the only health problem that could impact Brazil. Researchers have found a “super bacteria” in the waters near where the sailing events are scheduled and at some beaches including Copacabana where beach volleyball is scheduled to take place.
Still, Brazilian officials are confident this event will go on. The Games must go on.
By Evan Weiner for The Politics of Sports Business.
This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Evan Weiner.